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Posted at 12:19 PM ET, 01/07/2010

Boudreau: Karl Alzner could be back soon

One day after Karl Alzner was sent down, Coach Bruce Boudreau said the young defenseman's demotion to the Bears might only be temporary.

"We're healthy with eight defensemen and we wanted that right-hand guy in there [Brian Pothier], so if [Alzner] was going to sit out a couple games, why have him sit out? He's [21] years old, let's get him playing," Boudreau said. "He was struggling a little bit. But he's still going to be a great defenseman for us. We envision him being back here in the not-so-distant future."

So Alzner's out and Brian Pothier returns from an 11-game layoff with a broken rib tonight against the banged-up Senators, who will be without first-line forwards Jason Spezza (right knee) and Daniel Alfredsson (separated shoulder).

As I've mentioned before, Boudreau doesn't show his lines and pairings on gameday mornings. But I think it's safe to assume that Pothier will simply replace Alzner and skate alongside John Erskine on the third 'D' pairing. (That means the other tandems will be Shaone Morrisonn-Mike Green and Jeff Schultz-Tom Poti).

Based on the morning skate, the forward lines also did not appear to change much. Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble will likely be the top line, leaving Alexander Semin on the second line with Brooks Laich and Tomas Fleischmann, who'll be back at center after a one-goal, two-assist debut in Tuesday's 4-2 win over Montreal.

"All three worked," Boudreau said of Fleischmann's line. "I so want them to be consistently good. Because if they're going to be consistently good -- you know that Nicky and Alex aren't going to get shut out for too many games in a row -- so now, all of a sudden, you've got two lines working, which makes it so much hard to check these guys."

The fourth line appears to be the only combination that's going to change. Quintin Laing is going to be a "healthy" scratch, even through Boudreau said the gritty winger is nursing some bumps and bruises related to "the way he plays." (Laing told me he could have suited up).

That means Boyd Gordon will be back in the lineup and will play with David Steckel and Matt Bradley.

"Boyd Gordon played really good the last game he played in Los Angeles," Boudreau said. "He's a mainstay on our team and ... we need to keep him active."

In goal, Jose Theodore will make his second start in eight games. And for the second straight day, Boudreau did not mince his words when discussing the game's importance for the veteran netminder.

"He had a really good practice yesterday," Boudreau said. "I have a [regularly-scheduled player-coach] meeting with him tomorrow. I don't even need to talk to him. He knows the importance of him playing well. We have two young kids really knocking on the door in the NHL. He knows he needs to step up on a consistent basis. There are nights where he's unbelievable, as a veteran should be. Then there's nights where you sit there and you go, 'He just doesn't have the right stuff.' Or something happens like a soft goal goes in. We think he's a great team guy and we want him to step up and be great all the time like he was earlier in the year."

Some other notes and quotes from this morning:

*Ovechkin skated only briefly this morning but is healthy, according to Boudreau, who added: "Sometimes he likes to watch video."

*Tyler Sloan will join Laing as a healthy scratch.

*The Caps are 6-1-2 in their last nine games against Ottawa.

*The Caps have gone four games in a row without scoring a goal in the first period but still lead the league with 49 first period markers.

By  |  12:19 PM ET, 01/07/2010

Tags:  Boyd Gordon, Brian Pothier, Jose Theodore, Karl Alzner, Ottawa Senators, Quintin Laing, Tomas Fleischmann

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